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Economy

Tourist numbers may hit 1.5m this year, says board

TOURISTS RELAX BY THE BEACH IN DIANI. FILE PHOTO | NMG
TOURISTS RELAX BY THE BEACH IN DIANI. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Visitor numbers are expected to hit the 1.5 million mark by the end of this year, according to Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) officials.

Last year, international arrivals to the country rose by 16.7 per cent to 877,602 up from 752,073 in 2015.

The country also received 429,749 cross border visitors, putting the total combined arrivals during the period to 1.3 million, a 10 per cent growth from the previous year.

KTB chairman Jimi Kariuki and KTB chief executive officer Betty Radier said they are counting on international arrivals to hit their target.

Mr Kariuki attributed the tourism fortunes to a reduction of park entry fees, visa waiver for children under 16 and charter incentive programmes as well as a waiver of landing fees for Moi and Malindi international airports.

“A number of international airlines have increased flights to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airport in Mombasa following a surge in tourists visiting the country for holidays,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Nation.

Airlines that have increased flights from Europe to Nairobi include German carrier Lufthansa and Swiss international carriers.

In an exclusive interview in Mombasa, Mr Kariuki and Ms Radier said visitors from across the globe had since July been flocking to the Masai Mara National Reserve to watch the wildebeest migration.

“In the past two months, wildlife enthusiasts have been pouring into the Mara in droves to witness the migration of wildebeests from Tanzania to Kenya,” Mr Kariuki said.

Charter airlines that have resumed flights from Italy to Mombasa include Neos Air, Meridiana Fly and Blue Panaroma.

A polish carrier Enter Air is also operating flights between Warsaw and Mombasa while Condor serves the Frankfurt-Munich-Mombasa route.

“Hotels in the coastal resort towns are at the moment receiving more international tourists following the return of charter airlines,” said Mr Kariuki.

According to Ms Radier, the industry’s growth has been bolstered by yielding markets such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, India and China.

The KTB chief executive attributed the growth to the government’s tourism recovery campaigns carried out locally and internationally.

“In the past five years, KTB has been focusing on tourism recovery by convincing the international markets that Kenya is a safe holiday destination in a bid to overcome perceptions of insecurity,” she said.

She added: “Security improvement and positive image building campaigns have paid off as the international markets now have confidence in Kenya.”

To increase international tourist numbers, Ms Radier said KTB would focus more on markets which yield good results.

She added that the marketing agency was working towards promoting the country in new markets.

Mr Radier said this financial year, the government allocated the agency Sh2 billion, with 80 per cent of the funds to be spent on marketing activities.

“We have been aggressively marketing the country in traditional markets of the United Kingdom, US, Germany, Italy and France. Our efforts are paying off,” she added.

Tourism promotion

The marketing agency, she said, has also carried out tourism promotion in emerging markets of India and China, adding that tourist numbers from the two markets have been on the rise.

“Last year, the US was our top market in terms of arrivals, followed by the UK, India and China. Uganda was our top market in Africa,” she explained.

Apart from traditional and emerging markets from Europe and Asia, Ms Radier said KTB is also wooing more tourists from South Africa, West Africa and North Africa.

“Through the Tembea Kenya campaign, we are also doing domestic tourism drives to encourage Kenyans to travel across the country for holidays,” she said.

The marketing agency, she added, targets to woo more tourists from neighbouring countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Since July, lodges and camps in the Mara have been receiving international visitors from the US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, Japan, China, Switzerland and Austria.

Following the calm enjoyed in the country, hotels, lodges and camps are expected to register high guest numbers between this month and December.

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